Volunteer Lawyers for Justice receives $1M gift to launch endowment to ensure access to justice

Volunteer Lawyers for Justice received a $1 million gift from David Bershad and Mindy Cohen in support of its mission to ensure access to justice for people experiencing poverty. The contribution will enable VLJ to create an endowment, which will ensure the longevity of the organization and the sustainability of its finances in the wake of unforeseen circumstances.

VLJ is an award-winning legal services organization based in Newark. In 2023, 1,750 clients received services on over 1,900 legal matters, impacting more than 4,000 people, through VLJ’s eight pro bono programs.

Bershad and Cohen, who live in West Orange, are longtime supporters of VLJ’s program and communications work. In 2021, they donated VLJ’s first-ever six-figure gift from individuals to establish the Bershad Communications Fellowship.

On their continued and growing support of VLJ, they offered: “There is a great need for legal services for thousands of lower-income families. This endowment is intended to create a long-term financial bedrock so VLJ can continue to fulfill its role in meeting that need. We are so pleased to be the catalysts for that support.”

“We are deeply grateful to David Bershad and Mindy Cohen for their remarkable commitment to advancing access to civil legal justice,” Cathy Keenan, executive director at VLJ, said. “This endowment is historic and will be instrumental in empowering those who may otherwise be unable to afford legal assistance, reinforcing our efforts to create a just and compassionate New Jersey.”

The duo has already donated $500,000 toward their pledge. As part of their commitment, they will issue a challenge grant to encourage others to commit to the endowment. When the endowment reaches $1 million, they will donate their second $500,000. This means their support will elevate VLJ’s endowment to an incredible $1,500,000 — an unprecedented milestone in ensuring our sustained impact.